Monday, May 6, 2024

Sacred Land of the Incas - Peru May 6-14, 2024

                                            Sacred Land of the Incas - Peru  May 6-14, 2024

I’m traveling to Peru for a land based Travel Adventure.  I’m traveling with the Dear Wife with the help of tour operator: Exoticca.  
 
May 6, 2024,   Monday-Day 1 / Travel Day

We began this Adventure with an afternoon flight on COPA Air from Tampa to Panama City Panama. Then an evening flight from PTY direct to Lima, the capital of Peru with a scheduled arrival at about 1:05 am early Tuesday. On the second late flight, we were upgraded (by bid) to Business Class. Nice. We were among the first off the plane and eventually (only 10 minutes) found our pick-up guide, Roberto. We checked into our hotel Ibis Lima Reducto Miraflores at just after 2:00 am. We were soon in our room on the 16th floor and sound asleepA very interesting travel day…tiring, but not stressful at all.

May 7, 2024  / Tuesday-Day 2  /  Lima
This is a scheduled travel/free-day in Lima but we arrived early so a long open day for us.  We woke at about 9:00 am and made it to Breakfast (included) before they closed at 10:00 am.  It was a nice buffet with Peruvian specialties.  Afterward we settled in and established WiFi and noticed the very urban sounds…something we are not used to hearing.  The room is small but adequate.  The location as we learned today is very good.  We started on a walkabout in the affluent  Miraflores area.  A lot of Art Deco period homes that gave way to modern apartments and businesses, but a very clean and safe area of Lima.  We went to Kennedy Park and adjacent areas, then walked to the seaside Malecon, urban Parks, and the old lighthouse and it was a bit foggy. You could watch the surfers though.  On the walk back to the hotel we stopped in La Cervecer√≠a with a great selections of local draft beers.  I found a nice Peruvian Pilsner.  They happened to be serving (we saw an order) a special of the day, Pasta with Pesto, the DWs favorite, so decided to eat there.  I ordered a Hamburger served with local cheese and Bacon (English style) that was excellent.  Stopped for beers and ended up with a great meal. We visited some great places along the way perhaps our favorite because of the Churros was Manolo Peru.  It was about 3:00 pm when we returned for rest and nap at the hotel. When we wok from our nap we realized that we were in for the day, but I had time to update this blog and get read some history of this area.  One of the parks we visited was Parco de 7 June so I looked up the date and discovered the Pacific War between Peru an Chile.  This area was the site of a battle and everything from the 19th century, other than the local Church was destroyed in 1881.   Explains the architecture of the areas redevelopment.  The 100,000 residents of the Miraflores area are the wealthiest in Peru.  Also why there are so many unique Shops, Art Centers, and Restaurants in the area.
 
May 8, 2024 / Wednesday-Day 3  /  Lima
We woke and went to breakfast at about 7:00 am as we met the Exottica Representative at 8:00 am. Since we are doing the additional Museo Larco option our Lima City Tour is in the afternoon…so we have a free morning. We did the 15-minute walk back to Manolo for Churros. We ordered to plate of 6 regular Churros with the Hot Chocolate dipping sauce and a vanilla and chocolate flavored. I also had a very good Leche Caliente…very hot and perfect with churros. We then went to visit the very large department store: Falabella Miraflores as it opened at 11:00 am.  All the employees line the entrance and clap and sing as the first guests arrive.  That was an unexpected and very nice greeting. After our return, we had an hour's rest. We met our 2:00 pm Lima tour and were taken to the old town of Lima passing interesting sites including Public Parks and the Indian Markets along the way.  We were dropped at Plaza Bolivar across from the Peruvian Congress Building and the Imposing Statue of Simon Boliver. We then walked several blocks on a pedestrian avenue with stores in historical buildings to the Lima main square: Plaza Mayor. This square is surrounded by the imposing Cathedral and Governed Palaces…very impressive. We then walked to the Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo and toured the Museum, Courtyards, and Catacombs. We walked through Alameda Chabuca Granda and then reboarded our bus to the Museo Larco. This private museum is located in a very large Colonial Period House built on top of an old ruin. It is beautifully landscaped and all the rooms are modernized for the display of cultural artifacts from pre-Inca sites in Peru.  Very professional displays that tell the stories of these ancient peoples. I was very impressed (photo). It was 6:45 pm by the time we were dropped at our hotel so we went across the road and ate at Pasteler√≠a San Antonio (Pizza, Tamale, & Empanada) before retiring. It was a very busy day in Lima.
 
May 9, 2024 / Thursday-Day 4  /  Lima - Cuzco - Sacred Valley  
We woke early to check out, eat breakfast, and meet our airport bus to the Lima airport
. Boarding for our flight was a mess as locals (Indians) ignored people in a line. Our domestic carrier was Sky Air with the flight from Lima to Cusco leaving @ 12:15 and arriving before 2:00 pm.  There we were transported by bus on a two-hour drive to Urubamba through the Andes Highlands. The scenery was very nice but the conditions of the road and villages we passed were pitiful. Object rural poverty.  I think most on the bus were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into when we arrived, but just a short drive off the highway we found the mountain oasis of Hotel Agustos Urubamba.  A beautiful hotel on beautiful grounds surrounded by colorful landscaping and in the distance: mountains. Our very large clean and neat room had two queen beds.  Nice amenities including good WiFi too. At about 5:00ish we went to the very nice dining room with a great view for dinner. I had a Sirloin Steak, but the highlight was a large Green Salad as a starter. We retired after a walk in the garden. It was an effort to get here but well worth it in the end.
 
May 10, 2024  /  Friday-Day 5  /  Sacred Vally - Machu Picchu  
We slept very well
, the absolute quiet is so great compared to the urban sounds of Lima. Today is the big day and we started with an excellent Breakfast Buffet with small Pancakes, Omelette style Eggs, Potatoes & Onions, Fruit, Leche Caliente, and more. We have 2:00 pm entry tickets to Machu Picchu so we met our bus @ 9:45 am to take us to the Ollantaytambo Train Station. We then boarded the train to Machu Picchu passing beautiful views on the way to Machu Picchu station at Aguas Calientes. From there we boarded special buses that took us on the winding trail up to the entry arriving at about 2:00 pm. Our group of 31 was divided into three groups of 10 and assigned a local guide. Unlike in the past guests don’t explore on their own but take a guided tour, for the best IMHO as he explains what we are seeing. The tails and walkways are very difficult as UNESCO doesn’t allow changes or improvements. The first part is the most difficult as it’s all uphill.  I was the oldest, by far, but the guide paused many times to explain things so the pace was slow.  We were rewarded by the beautiful views (photo) once in that agricultural area of the MP. Fortunately, everything was downhill from thereWe we shown the various buildings and structures and their use in the within 15th century Inka community.  It is amazing and worthy of the designation in the 7 Wonders of the World. It was about 5:30 pm when we ended the tour. Then we repeat the entire process for the return. We did have an hour in Aguas Calientes before the train so we ate in a nice restaurant overlooking the Urubamba River. It was after 10:00 pm when we arrived back at the Hotel Agustos Urubamba. We were soon asleep after a very busy Machu Picchu day.
 
May 11, 2024,   Saturday-Day 6  / Sacred Valley - Cuzco   
We originally had an optional excursion today with a 7:00 am departure but changed it back to the regular tour schedule as we needed the rest
. Unfortunately, my phone woke me just after 6:00 am but that allowed me to stay in bed and have time to update this blog and still not have to get about early. I do admit that yesterday was very tiring for this old-timer. We enjoyed a very nice Breakfast Buffet in the Restaurant then packed to meet our Bus to Cusco at 11:00 am. We left our bags, as did the larger group, early this morning to be delivered by 2:00 pm. We arrived at the Agustos Cuzco Hotel just after noon and went to our assigned rooms. It’s an urban hotel not really to our liking…two-star at best. At 1:00 we took a taxi @ $S-10 ($2.50) on a 10-minute ride to the Plaza de Armas.  This is the largest plaza in Cusco anchored by the historic Cathedral of Cusco, the current Catholic Basilica, Restaurants, and shops in Colonial buildings (photo). It is a large beautiful and impressive Central Square, We toured the impressive Catedral del Cuzco and then decided to eat at Tunupa across the square. We had a table on the balcony overlooking the entire Plaza and mountains beyond. It was great to watch all the activities. I also had my first Pisco Sour, the cocktail of Peru. DW had a Vegetarian Salad and I had a nice Hamburger, they were good. Afterward, while DW shopped I had a nice pedicure and foot and leg massage…it was needed from yesterday's strenuous climb at Machu Picchu. We then shopped around the Plaza in various shops. We took a taxi back to the hotel and the group from the excursion was now there, that’s when we discovered that our bags from the previous hotel had not arrived.  Then several guests and myself with Airtags discovered that they were still in Urubamba.  Very poor WiFi in the hotel so no Big 12 Championship game to view tonight although I could follow by StatChat. DW waited in the Lobby/Bar with new friends until our luggage arrived at about 9:00 pm. A good day in Cusco.
 
May 12, 2024 / Sunday-Day 7 / Cuzco
I slept better than I thought I would with no air conditioning, then went down to a light breakfast at about 8:15 am. At about 9:30 we took a taxi into the old town. We discovered new interesting Plazas, new Churches & Convents, and more. At about 11:00 am we stopped at El Cuadro Restaurant located on Plaza Regocijo with a view of the fountain. We ordered guacamole and our waiter Alex was able to have Pico de Gallo prepared fresh for us. It was great and I also had my first Inka Kola. It was interesting to see the local Mothers walking in the Plazas today too, many in traditional Peruvian dress. We then walked across the Plaza de Armas to visit areas on the other side. We saw the original 15th-century Inca Temple walls that now supported the Basilica and Spanish Colonial structures. We stopped at Paddy’s, the world's highest genuine Irish Pub @ 11,500 feet. It was interesting and the WiFi was super fast.  Soon afterward we returned to the hotel for some rest and I updated this blog. At about 7:00 pm eleven of our group met and we went to Tunupa the very nice restaurant on the Plaza de Armas.  This was a Dinner and Folkloric Show. We had a choice of three different set menus, DW had a Vegetarian meal including excellent Pasta with Vegetables and I had the Lama Pepper Steak entree with Potatoes, a Salad starter, and Coconut Cake for dessert. The entertainment was a three-piece Peruvian Musical Group and four dancers (photo) . It was a nice 40+ minute presentation and I enjoyed it very much. We returned at about 10:30 pm and then retired to the room for needed sleep.

May 13, 2024 / Monday-Day 8 / Cuzco - Lima 
I slept fair, although cool outside I was too warm, perhaps the altitude or late meal. I went down for breakfast at about 7:15 am then packed and went to the lobby for 9:15 am airport pick-up.  At about 10:00 we discovered that our flight had been canceled by SKyAir.  After an hour of stress most were rebooked for an 8:20 flight, but we would have to be picked up at 3:15. We checked our bags and took a taxi back to Plaza de Armas. We stopped for pasties and a Coca-Cola at a coffee shop, then visited the Museo Machu Picchu Concha which was closed yesterday. We then did some shopping and ate again at El Cuadro Restaurant on Plaza Regocijo.  At about 2:15 pm we then returned to the hotel for our new shuttle. We were at the airport at about 4:00 and finally were checked in for our flight. Only a three-hour wait until boarding. I purchased some WiFi and posted three days on this blog. We were finally on our way and scored Exit Row seats. We landed in Lima at about 10:30 pm or the original time that were to be picked up. Going from Arrivals to Departures was easy as the airport is on one level. We checked in with Copa Airlines, checked our bags to Tampa, and went through security. We stopped for some KFC then we were at our departure gate at about 12:15 a.m
 
May 14, 2024, Tuesday-Day 9  /  Lima / Night on Board 
The time passed well we still had our WiFi from our previous visit here. At about 1:30 am they began early boarding for our flight to Panama. We are fortunate to have Business Class for both flightsWe landed in Panama at about 6:00 am and we had a three-hour layover but we spent that time in the Copa Club.  We recharged our iPhones, had a light breakfast, and a Coke. At about 9:00 we were off on the final flight to Tampa arriving at 1:00 pm. We were among the first off the plane, through Immigration, and to receive luggage, We had a Lyft ride within minutes and HOME at about 3:00 pm
 
 This adventure (and it is that) to Machu Picchu is an experience of a lifetime.  
Not an easy place to visit, but well worth it in the end.

Exottica, the Tour Operator
I was not as pleased with Exottica on this journey as in the past.  Most of the problems were actually due to their local agent Condor Travel. Exottica did what they usually do well: Tranfers, Air travel, Trains, etc. Not as pleased with accommodations.

Hotels
Ibis Lima Reducto - Miraflores - 3.2***Stars
Staff-4. Location-3. Room-3. Food-3.  WiFi-3

Agustos Urubamba - Urubamba - 4.3****Stars
Staff-5. Location-4. Room-5. Food-5. WiFi-4

Agustos Cusco Hotel - Cusco - 2**Stars
Staff-4. Location-1. Room-1. Food-3. WiFi-1


Personal Observations about Peru

Peruvian people are very friendly and accommodating to visitors.

Be careful about adding ice cubes to carbonated beverages when over 11,500 elevations.

Altitude sickness is real.

The food is good.

The beer is very good.

The USD $ goes a long way ... 





Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Grandeur of the Seas - April 24, 2024

                                               Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Review 

Just the Facts:
Ship:  Grandeur of the Seas,  a Vision-class ship @ 73,000 GT and the oldest in the Royal Caribbean fleet launched in 1995
Ports: Tampa, FL - Grand Cayman Island - Cozumel, Mexico -- Tampa, FL

This is a quick five-day cruise from Tampa and I am sailing as a solo guest. This is the Granduer's first sailing since a recent dry dock update. This is my first cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas, my 36th Royal Caribbean cruise, and my 210th total cruise overall.  Just a quick get-a-way cruise on a unique ship.
 

Day One -- Wednesday --  April 24th, 2024 -- Port of Tampa  — Embarkation 
 
I was up early and finished packing by 9:00 am but didn’t leave the Villa until 11:00 am for the short drive to Tampa. I was soon parked on level 5 of the Channel Side Parking facility and walked across the street to the terminal (photo). I was behind the early initial early rush at the cruise terminal so very easy.  It was very well organized individuals on the floor checking guests with their mobile iPads (Same as the new RCL facility in Galveston. It was a very smooth process…I rolled on my bag as usual and was in my Cabin on deck 8 by 12:15 pm.  Amazing embarkation. I went one deck up to the Lido deck and the Windjammer before it got too busy. I had a nice Salad, Pork Cutlets, and Mashed Potatoes…very nice. I then went down to Deck 5 and checked into Muster Station number 6. Easy peasy.  I returned to the cabin to unpack, hang clothes, and set up the WiFi. It’s large for an interior cabin with ample storage and even a small couch.  This is the first sailing after dry dock so we are the first guests for a while and everything is fresh and clean.  Even the hangers in the closet were properly separated so the details were done well.  The internet worked well from my cabin location too (once I adjusted my settings).  I went up to the Solarium to make a telephone call home and had a nice Roast Beef sandwich from the late afternoon snack area. It was small but good with fresh roll and horseradish. We sailed away at about 4:10 pm and one forgets how big Tampa Bay actually is … it was hours before we sailed under the bridge. I went to the Schooner Bar for two very nice Cosmopolitan cocktails prepared by Wilson from Goa. Then I visited the Crown Lounge located in the South Pacific Lounge on deck 6 aft…they have a wonderful view of the aft wake. The Hors d’oeuvres were very nice, I sampled the Chicken tenders and enjoyed the view until dinner. I have late seating in the Great Gatsby Dining room (MDR) at Table 328 an 8-top. There were five solo guests this evening. The wait service was excellent and I ordered: the Tomato Soup, the Escargot, the Pasta Pomodoro entree, and a Key Lime Pie for dessert. All were good as were the table guests. I then retired to the cabin as it was a long, busy, and easy embarkation day.
 
Day One -- Thursday --  April 25th, 2024 -- Day at Sea
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. I did wake in the early morning hours as is usual for me. We set our time back one hour to CST in anticipation of our port times. I updated the blog and then went to breakfast in the MDR at about 9:00 am. I was seated at an 8-top table with nice guests. I ordered Danish, fruit Plate, Eggs Benedict with sides of Hash Brown potatoes and nice crispy Bacon. I also had a Bloody Mary and we had a good breakfast and visit. I returned to the cabin and did some work online before going to the Centrum area to listen to music while my cabin was being cleaned.  The multi-deck Centrum is common on many new ships so the design of the Grandeur was somewhat ahead of its time.  After I returned to the cabin I had a delivery of both a Fruit Basket and a nice decorative sliced fresh fruit plate.  Very unusual that quite by chance it was my own MDR waiter Menandro who delivered it.  At about 3;15 pm I went up to the Park Cafe on Lido for another small Roast Beef sandwich and sat and enjoyed the ocean views. I was able to stream and watch today's live Texas Rangers baseball day game this afternoon too. It was a very restful day. I went to the Schooner Bar for cocktail hour then to the Crown Lounge to enjoy the sunset (photo) and additional cocktails. Not busy at the CL and I did sample the Fried Shrimp and the service was very good. Not crowded at the Great Gatsby as they opened a bit early and most guests knew their table assignments. There were four of us for dinner tonight and tonight's theme was classical French food. I ordered:  Escargots a la Bourguignon, Iceberg Wedge Salad, Beef Bourguignon, and Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Warm Apple Cobbler for dessert. It was good as was the service. There was a Broadway Production show tonight in the Theater although I retired after dinner. Early meet-up for the excursion tomorrow. It was a very nice sea day on the Grandeur of the Seas.

Day Four -- Saturday --  April 26th, 2024 -- Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Smooth seas overnight and I again slept very well. I was up early as I had an early meeting time for my excursion. At about 7:00 am I was at the Windjammer for breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Hash Browns, and Corned Beef Hash…it was good. I met my excursion, Pedro St. James Great House, Rum Tasting, and Cayman Crystal Caves at about 8:00 am in the Palladium Theater. We had a group of 21 in a small bus and as the only solo, I had the shotgun seat. The Government has encouraged more tourism on the eastern side of the island and these are two venues recently added for tourism. We drove about 30 minutes to the east end of the island and the recently opened Cayman Crystal Caves.  It was an extensive cave system, we visited two, the Roots cave and the larger Lake cave (photo). The paths and lighting in the caves were well done and it was uniquely interesting. It took them six years to clear the paths and prepare for guests and they did an excellent job in doing so. The next stop was at Pedro St. James the oldest established great house on the island. The Cayman government recently restored the property as a National Historical Site and opened it for tourism.  They have an excellent 3D movie presentation of the history of the house before you do the tour of the house itself.  It’s a three-story house built with thick walls and a 4x4 pattern to catch the sea breezes for cooling. Mahogany doorways & windows and restored with period furnishing. I was very impressed. The Grounds are very nice and include the outdoor Kitchen and Gardens   They have a very nice restaurant on site where we ate and had the Rum tasting. I ordered the best Hamburger ($20) I’ve had in a while and other guests said the Seafood entrees were very good. It was a very enjoyable tour (check the two links). We were also lucky to be the only ship in port today so travel was easier. I was back in my cabin just before 3:00 pm for needed rest. The new Zoom internet on board is excellent. At 5:00 pm I was able to watch my Sooners Softball Team vs. UCF. I streamed both the broadcast from ESPN+ and streamed the sound from the Sooner Sports Network.  Perfect and the Sooners won 10-2. The game ended just before my 8:00 pm dinner time. It was the Caribbean Night menu, my least favorite, but service is excellent in the MDR so always a nice dinner. I ordered the Coconut Shrimp and two entrees: the jerk Pork Chop and NY Strip Steak. For dessert the Pineapple Sunshine Cake. The Shrimp and Cake were excellent, the entrees not so much. I stopped at the R Bar in the Centrum for a cocktail and to pick up some Diet Coke for the cabin before retiring. It was a long but great day on the Grandeur of the Seas.
 
Day Four -- Saturday --  April 27th, 2024 -- Cozumel, Mexico
Smooth seas continued and I slept well. I woke in the night and updated this blog…too busy yesterday.  We have a late arrival into Cozumel so no rushing this morning.  I did go to the MDR for breakfast.  I had Danish, Fruit Plate, Eggs Benedict, Hash Browns, Bacon, and a glass of milk.  It was very good and I had a view of us sailing into the Strait of Cozumel. I had time to do some catch-up business online as we aren’t scheduled to dock until noon. At about 11:30 I went down to deck 2 as I anticipated an earlier gangway opening and yes they did, I was the first guest off the ship primarily because everyone in front of me didn’t have their sail cards ready. That was a first. I did the 15-minute walk over to Del Mar Latino Beach Club and settled into a lounge area. It was a beautiful day with enough clouds to cover the Sun most of the day and a nice sea breeze. I started with Coca-Cola and a dip in the pool to cool off from the walk. I monitored the OU softball game (ESPN+ doesn’t cover Mexico) and eventually switched to Mojitos. Jazzy kept the drinks coming as well as great snacks including: Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Chicken Nachos, Coconut Shrimp, Shrimp Cocktail, and Coconut Ice Creme. I casually walked back to the International Pier at about 5:00ish.  We don’t sail until 8:00 pm so not as busy a return to ship. After refreshing and rest I went to the R Bar for a frozen drink called a MasterCard. I had another as I watched Karaoke with a live band…interesting. I went to the MDR for dinner and it’s a Touch of Mexico theme tonight. I ordered the Escargot, Poblano Pepper Soup, Carne Asada, a Pulled Pork Enchilada, and a Flan for dessert. It was good, but a bit disappointing as I like proper Mexican food. I retired after dinner, I heard the Production Shows have been good, but just are appealing to me on this cruise. It was a great day in Cozumel today.
 
Day Five -- Sunday --  April 28, 2024 —Fun Day at Sea 
Some rolling seas overnight and I slept very well. We changed our clocks forward one hour so back to Florida time. At about 9:20 am I went down to the MDR for another nice breakfast. Danish, Tomato Juice, Fruit Plate, Eggs Benedict, Bacon, Hash Browns, and Hot Milk. My televised softball game is early today with an 11:00 am start for OU and USF. Again great Voom WiFi on the ship and the Sooners won. I went up to the Windjammer for a nice lunch and noticed the ship rocking…then later that we sailed into some rainy weather. I made a trip to Guest Services then stayed in the Centrum to listen to the 5-piece Jazz Group. I had my Mastercard frozen drink then stayed for the Parade of Countries with Crew parading with flags from around the world. It was interesting and they seemed to have the world covered. At 7:15 pm I went to the Theater for the Farewell Show. It featured the 8-piece Orchestra (unique these days), the Magician, the featured Comedian, the Singers (4), and Dancers (8) with a farewell set, and various members of the Senior Staff and Crew. Since I had not seen a show I was able to catch them all at this one…Glad that I attended. That made me a little late for dinner, But I was the only one tonight so all fine.  It’s Italian theme night and I ordered: the Italian Minestrone Soup, Crispy Parmesan Arancini, Chicken Parmesan entree with extra Marinara, and the Artisan Cheese Plate for dessert.  It was good. After dinner, I retired to begin packing for tomorrow's departure.

Debarkation — Thursday -- April 29, 2024 -- Port of Tampa
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. I woke by 6:00 am to finish packing.  Debark began at 7:05 am and I was among the first off.  Facial recognition but only two stations.  Walked across the street to the parking garage and home by 8:30 am.  Easy.


HIGHLIGHTS of the Cruises
Pedro St. James Great House and Cayman Crystal Caves Excursion
Cozumel Port Day
Friendly Staff and Crew
Farewell Show
Cabin location

Observations about the Grandeur of the Seas
Smaller ship is easier to maneuver
Crew and Staff are excellent & Friendly
Rarely a long wait for elevators
Not many FOOD options



 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Carnival Jubilee B2B Cruise Review - March 16th & 23rd, 2024

Carnival Jubilee B2B Cruise Review - March 16th & 23rd, 2024

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Jubilee, 3rd of the Excel Class ships launched in late 2023 at 183,500 Tons & 6500 max guest capacity.
Captain:  Stefano Bonico - Hotel Director: Lars Juel - Cruise Director: Kendell Fire Wk1, Louie Clare Wk2
Ports:  Galveston TX - Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras - Costa Maya, MX - Cozumel, MX  - Repeated

This is the inaugural season of the new Carnival Jubilee and of course my 1st cruise on her. I’m cruising with the Dear Wife (DW) on a B2B (back2back) and have friends and clients on these two cruises.  This is my 112-113th Carnival cruise, and 208th and 209th cruises overall.
 
Saturday / March 16th, 2024 Embarkation / Day 1 
We were up very early (3:00 am) for our Lyft drive to the Tampa Airport arriving at about 4:45 am for our 6:00 am flight. Smooth security and check-in in Miami for our 8:30 AM flight to Houston IAH. We arrived in Houston at about 11:30 am. We then waited over an hour for the Carnival Shuttle bus. Once on board, the bus stopped twice on the way. We spent more time with the Shuttle than any other segment of travel…four hours counting wait times and travel. Once we arrived at the pier at about 2:00 pm it was smooth sailing onto the ship. No lines anywhere along the way…even security. We were in our cabin on Lido Deck and unpacked by 2:30 pm as we rolled on our bags ourselves. I find it much easier to board late and have done so on the last several cruises. We have an interior cabin as I originally booked as a solo then added the DW afterward for the first week. The cabin is adequate for both of us, we each have a wardrobe and the cabin is nice and clean. No worn carpet, lots of hangers, no scratches or stains…very nice. We went out through the secret door to the Lido deck to eat, I had an MDE Big Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Tenders, and Potato Fries. It was very good,..Big Chicken is a favorite. They were making final requests for guests to report to their muster stations so that was our next stop…ours was B-8 located on Deck 8 in ChiBang. We returned to the cabin for some much-needed rest and met our Cabin Steward Danu. We requested bath robes, ice, and extra towels. At about 4:30 PM, we sailed away into some brisk weather. The DW went up to deck 12 to meet the girls and I did a walkabout to see where the veteran Alchemy-trained bartenders were working. I had a beer at Summer Landing then went up to the Alchemy Bar. Three of my favorites were there: The Two Nicks together again, and Daniel. Wow! All Alchemy All-Stars. I then went by the new Golden Mermaid and saw CJ and Jason, two more All-Stars. I can’t wait to try some of the new menu cocktails at the GM. Very tempting to start but I knew I needed rest tonight and retired to the cabin. It was a busy travel and embark day for the new Carnival Jubilee.
 
Sunday / March 17th  /  Fun Day at Sea  /  Day 2
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. At about 8:00 am I went around the corner to the Blue Iguana for my favorite Carnival breakfast. I had my usual: Huevos Rancheros with Pico de Gallo, Shredded Cheese, Salsas, Arepas, and Watermelon. It was excellent. So convenient as our cabin location is basically behind the Blue Iguana. We did a brief walkabout and the outer decks are packed. We made a mistake booking during spring break, but I underestimated the effect of higher fares would be on the new Jubilee. We originally had planned on sailing earlier, but Carnival canceled the first month of cruises so we ended up with March dates. Our Snoozemate’s cruise will be back in February next year on the Pacific coast. The main pool and hot tub were packed with children…oh my. We met our group in the Golden Mermaid at about noon. The Diamond Luncheon was held next door in the Atlantic Restaurant at 12:30. We had a ten-top table and excellent service from bar servers to waiters. The Captain and senior officers were introduced by Kendall Fire the cruise director. She announced as suspected a full ship with over 6250 guests, but only 62 Diamonds. This is my first Diamond Luncheon since they introduced the new menu. I had my doubts when I saw it, but it’s a very good menu for this function. DW approved and complimented the vegetarian choices, she ordered the Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Feta and Almonds, the Artichoke Blue Cheese Fettuccine entree, and the Chocolate Crema dessert. I ordered the Teriyaki Pork Bites (excellent), and two entrees: Grilled Jumbo Shrimp (a Rudi’s Seagrill selection) and the Petit Steak and Fries (Emeril’s Bistro selection). Both were very good. For dessert, I had a very nice Five Layered Pistachio Cake. We never ran out of complementary cocktails including enough to continue the party back into the Golden Mermaid. This has become our SOP following the luncheon…this time it’s a St. Patrick's Day celebration. We stayed all afternoon and through their scheduled mixers: The Independent Travelers, the Singles, and the over-40s. I will have to say that this is the first time that I have seen one of these mixers hosted. The host did a very good job with humor, we even offered up one of our senior solos…his humorous selling point was that he could pay off student loans. It was funny. After a full day of celebrations, I knew dinner was out of the question, but I made it to Guy’s Burgers before they closed (barely) for a double burger & fries. Then it was back to the cabin for a full evening of rest. A great St. Patrick Sea Day on the Jubilee.

Monday / March 18th  /  Fun Day at Sea  /  Day 3 
Smooth seas overnight and I successfully slept off the St. Patrick's Day shenanigans from yesterday. At about 8:30 am, I went around the corner to 
Blue Iguana for my favorite Carnival breakfast: Huevos Rancheros with Pico de Gallo, Shredded Cheese, Salsas, Arepas, and Watermelon. The Pool Deck was already packed with guests. I took an Arepa and watermelon back to the cabin for the DW. Markets opened early in the Central Timezone so work started early…Good Day too. I prepared a laundry bag for Danu before we went on a walkabout. At about 12:45 we went to Cucina De Capitano for lunch. We had Mozzarella Sticks as an appetizer and ordered Pasta Bowls from the varied selections of pastas, sauces, and ingredients then desserts. I had a Limoncello Pie and DW an Orange Gelato. After lunch, we went to the Casino to get our $25 Diamond free-play. We’re not real gamblers but we did well at roulette, we ended up with $65 in real chips…I consider changing the play chips for real value at one-to-one a success and we did that and more. That will be our casino time for the cruise. We returned to the cabin and I updated my blog reviews and monitored the closing Market while watching three Errol Flynn movies on TCM. At about 6:00 pm I went to the Golden Mermaid for a very nice cocktail made by CJ Cornelius. For dinner tonight, I had Fish & Chips at The Seafood Shack on Lido Deck. It looked like two nice large pieces of fish, but it was pretty much all batter and little fish. Disappointing, I used to like the Seafood Shack. We went down to the Center Stage at about 9:00 pm for the 9:30 show The Residency. It was songs from various stars who resided in Vegas; Sinatra, Newton, Elvis, Tina, and more. We had great center area seats and enjoyed it. Following the show we retired to the cabin.
 

Tuesday, March 19th / Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras / Day 4

Smooth seas overnight and we slept very well. We were docked in Mahogany Bay by 8:00 am and it was a beautiful day. When we went up to the Lido Marketplace at about 9:30 am there were few guests on the pool deck, I guess most are getting off today. It was nice. It’s also bacon day (Carnival only serves bacon every other day) so we ate in the Lido Marketplace this morning, it was an adequate breakfast. We only intended to walk off the ship just to get in some steps for exercise today and so did so before it got too hot. It made it to 91° and very heavy humidity so those at the beach were fine but for others it was hot. We got in our steps and stopped for a real Coca-Cola (the ship has Pepsi) at Fat Tuesdays before returning to the ship. At about 1:00 pm we had a nice luncheon…I had a Big Chicken lunch and DW had a Blue Iguana lunch. We sat in between the two inside with cool air. Guests were already returning by the time we returned to the cabin for an afternoon rest. Updated the Blog and Photos as we shared our WiFi to check on the dog and grandchild. All well. We met the group at Golden Mermaid for cocktails at about 6:00 pm, but before we did we stopped at Dr. Inks Ph.D. for a new favorite cocktail. It’s a Crimson Catch: Swedish Fish candy-infused Tito’s Vodka, lime juice, Papa pomegranate liqueur, white Cranberry juice, and Swedish Fish Candy. Excellent. We enjoyed a nice cocktail hour+ before going to Emeril’s Bistro 717 for dinner. The DW ordered the Baked Brie with Croutons & Grapes, I ordered Red Beans & Rice and Roasted Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo. Shared Beignets for dessert. All was very good. Emeril’s dining area is the best of the three Excel class ships, more refined in taste and area. Owen Stephen the solo guitar feature began his set at Dr.Inks, next door during dinner, very nice. I met Owen many times previously on the Mardi Gras, he is a very nice guy and very talented. We did a walkabout stopping at Pixels on deck 8 to pick up the Diamond gifts; Pins and small toiletry bags. We then retired to the cabin. It was a FUN first port day on the Jubilee.

Wednesday, March 20th  /  Costa Maya, Mexico  /  Day 5 
Calm seas overnight and I slept well although woke too early. We went out at about 9:00ish and it was the opposite of yesterday. The pool deck was packed. The lines for my Blue Iguana were the longest I have ever seen at any time…from BI beyond the elevator doors. Maybe they read this blog? We went into the busy Lido Marketplace and made do with various breakfast selections. Danu had again done his magic and cleaned our cabin while we were away. We went up to the Serenity Deck and it wasn’t busy, we had a nice shared lounger in the shade. The pool water was rather chilly but great for cooling off. I was able to do some work as I have two-factor identification in Mexico. It became busier after a few hours, but we broke for lunch at about 1:30. We did the same lunch as yesterday, Big Chicken for me and Blue Iguana for the DW. We then retired for cabin time and a long nap until my Oklahoma Softball game @ 6:00 pm. We did see a guest with an OU NCAA Championship T-shirt today… a good omen as the girls did win 12-1 over UTA. At about 8:15 pm I went down to Deck 8 to ChiBang for dinner. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten ChiBang so I ordered my favorites: Egg Drop Soup, Lettuce Wraps, Beef & Broccoli, and spicy Kung Pow Chicken…all very good. It was a very nice relaxing day on the Carnival Jubilee.
 
Thursday  March 21st  /  Cozumel, Mexico  /  Day 6 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well.  We docked early well before I went for breakfast at about 7:10 am.  I had my favorite Blue Iguana breakfast then took some assorted breads back to the cabin for the DW.  Knowing that Woody’s is now open early for breakfast we decided to get an early start and left the ship at 8:00 am.  We took a taxi ($10) to the Iglesia de San Miguel church and reflected for a while then off to Woody’s Bar & Grill.  We had Coca-Colas and access to the best WiFi in town.  At 10:00 am I went to Antonio’s Barber Shop while the DW visited with Nelly. I had a nice trim then went to Sensi Spa for my usual 
pedicure.  Already a productive day for me.  Good friends had arrived by the time I got back to Woody’s. The rest of the day was visiting Friends, Guacamole, Food, Cervezas, Shopping, Live Music, and more. At about 2:00 pm we returned to Puerto Maya and went to Pancho’s Backyard for a couple of Mango Margaritas and some shopping at Cinco Soles.  We watched guests returning to the three Carnival Ships and timed our return to the pier and ship accordingly to avoid crowds and the 90° heat. It was great getting refreshed once back onboard in the cabin.  We met the group for cocktails at about 6:00 pm in the Golden Mermaid then later had dinner at the Marketplace buffet.  Lots of good choices including Prime Rib at the carving station, Chicken Cordon Blu, a Vegetarian Lasagna for the DW, a Pork Steak, and more.  We retired to the cabin soon after dinner I was soon asleep.  It was a FUN Cozumel Day.

Friday March 22nd  /  Fun Day at Sea   /  Day 7 
Rolling seas overnight and I slept well, although I was up during the night so I updated this blog…just too tired to do it last night. Overcast and rolling seas today as I went to Blue Iguana for my usual breakfast. The Watermelon & Jicama salsa and Salsa Verde accentuate the Huevos Rancheros. BTW-they are calling them Tacos consistent with the change of signage a few years ago. I took another selection of Breads from the Marketplace back to the cabin for the DW. Soon the weather improved and the pool deck was again very busy. We did a walk about and it’s hard to imagine 6500 guests onboard. At about 1:00 pm I had a very nice Guy’s Burger with French Fries for lunch then we went to the Diamond/Platinum Reception at 2:00 pm in the Theater. It was hosted by CD Kendall Fire and she did a great and humorous job. Two bonuses as Owen was the musical entertainer and a Pilsner Urquill beer. I wasn’t the high cruiser but a distant second of the 79 Diamonds on board. The interesting fact I learned was the geographical distribution of guests. For the first time ever on a ship sailing from Galveston Texas was not the primary home for guests, in fact, they were third behind Arkansas and Oklahoma. Spring Break in those states was a determining factor. At about 5:00 pm we went to Dr. Inks for my new favorite drink: the Crimson Catch. We also discovered that Milo the Bartender there is the younger brother of Lydia one of my favorite Alchemists. We then met our group at the Golden Mermaid (photo) for an extended Happy Hour. The Ruby Rapture has been my drink of choice there. We all had dinner at Cucina de Capitano this evening. I ordered: Arancini, Nonna’s Meatball, the Pork Chop entree, and Baba Napoletano for dessert. Three very good entertainment choices tonight with shows in the Theater, Grand Central, and the Havana Bar. DW finished packing tonight as she is riding back to Fort Worth with friends to visit family. A busy last sea day on the Carnival Jubilee.

Saturday /  March 23rd  /  Galveston, Texas /  Day 8 of B2B 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well.  We were docked in Galveston early.  DW leaves the ship and I stay on today.  At about 7:00 am I went to Blue Iguana for my usual favorite breakfast…just so easy being around the corner on the same deck as our cabin.  DW finished packing and at about 8:30 took her to the Golden Mermaid the staging area for wheelchairs to meet friends driving to Fort Worth.  At about 9:30 I went to the Atlantic Restaurant the staging area for B2B guests. Debarkation slowed and it was after 11:00 am before they had everyone off the ship.  The good part of the delay was that the TSA Agent came on board to check us in the MDR.  We then went about our way…I took some photos while the ship was empty and did the Muster Station check-in @ ChiBang for B-8. Soon a big Travel Agent group boarded, followed by a Wedding party.  Then the masses began boarding so I quickly had Blue Iguana for lunch as it was easy and no line.  My burrito was excellent.  Within half an hour it was very busy so I retired to the cabin to do some work before my OU softball game @ 2:00 pm. I discovered during the game that due to weather the Sunday game will be today @ 5:30 pm so I made it to Big Chicken before they closed at 5:00 for dinner.  I always like an MDE chicken sandwich. OU won both games so 31-1 for the year and ranked #1.  We sailed away while I was on deck 16 so I got a different unique view of the Battleship Texas, a rare site in the Port of Galveston. I also had a small fruit bowl and Champagne delivered today as a B2B guest…thanks Carnival.  It was a very easy turnaround day on the Jubilee.

Sunday,  March 24th  /  Fun Day at Sea /  Day 9 of B2B
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well.  At 7:50 am I was in line at Blue Iguana.  I guess they read my blog as I saw them turn the sign around for breakfast: Huevos Rancheros - Arepas…they had not been doing that.  Breakfast was excellent as usual, that’s why it’s my favorite. I did a walkabout the ship stopping at the Casino for my Diamond Chips and at Pixels for the same pin and ditty bag as Diamond gifts.  I met our now smaller group at Golden Mermaid at about noon for the Diamond Luncheon.  I ordered the same thing as last week:  Teriyaki Pork Bites (excellent), and two entrees: Grilled Jumbo Shrimp (a Rudi’s Seagrill selection) and the Petit Steak and Fries (Emeril’s Bistro selection). Both were very good. For dessert, I had a very nice Five Layered Pistachio Cake.  Again we never ran out of complementary cocktails including enough to continue the party back into the Golden Mermaid. This is our SOP following the luncheon and this week the scheduled activities were different.  The solo gatherings were not hosted…only a sign was up acknowledging the location. Stephanie who hosted it last week and CD Kindell left us on Saturday. Not as fun for the solos or us, but Owen Stephen, my favorite entertainer on board, performed two full sets of his guitar and singing talents.  We broke up the little party at about 6:00 pm and I went up to the Lido Marketplace for dinner.  Very good selections including a very nice Baked Ham at the carving station.  The Mashed Potatoes were also excellent so I was very pleased with dinner.  I then retired to the cabin to recover from a full afternoon of professional day drinking, fortunately, that’s limited to only one day per cruise.  It was a FUN day on the Jubilee.

Monday,  March 25th  /  Fun Day at Sea /  Day 10 of B2B 
Rolling seas overnight, I had to get up and move the hangers in the closet, they were rocking away, but I slept well.  I was at the Blue Iguana by 8:00 am again for a great breakfast, good to beat the line on this overly full cruise. Although the Burrito line is usually 3x longer than my Huevos Rancheros line in the mornings.  Monday mornings are business mornings but no projects this morning.  My Florida Assumed name registration project has been resolved and the forms are in my home mailbox.  I’m registering as a Travel Agent in Florida so I can finalize moving Bosque Travel from Texas to Florida. I considered fully retiring but will continue for a couple more years. At noon I met friends on Lido deck.  The goal was to drink the Champagne we all received, but none of us was in a drinking mood from yesterday.  We watched the loooong line for Big Chicken, the longest I have seen on any of the three Excel class ships, that lasted for two full hours.  We all had Shawarma for lunch.  There is a station in the Lido Marketplace next to the Sea Dogs and Gelato stations.  I had two Beef & Lamb and one Chicken.  It was very good and only a short line. Reminded me of the recent Red Sea cruise in the Middle East…that was good Shawarma.  At about 2:30 pm I returned to the cabin for an afternoon nap and also booked an excursion for Costa Maya.  At about 5:00 pm I went up to Dr. Inks for my Crimson Catch cocktail.  I used my B2B drink voucher.  Then I met the group at Golden Mermaid at 6:00 pm as usual.  Tonight we ate at Guy’s Pig & Anchor BBQ located in Summer Landing on Deck 8 aft.  We had only a very short wait before we were seated.  I ordered the Brisket, Pulled Pork, St. Louis Ribs ($), Onion Straws, French Fries, and the Banana Pie for dessert.  It was excellent. At about 8:00 pm, as we had dessert, the Backyard Band began their set and we were seated in front of the stage.  They were very good and I’m glad we could see their first set.  I retired to the cabin and watched some NCAA March Madness basketball.  It was another FUN Seaday on the Jubilee.
 

Tuesday / March 26th / Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras / Day 11 of B2B 

Rolling seas overnight…enough to rock one to sleep. We were docked early. I had every intention of going to the main MDR for breakfast but when I walked by Blue Iguana with no line I had to stop. It’s just so convent for me being just around the corner from my cabin on Lido Deck. I had the usual and it was very good as always. Guests are getting off early and enjoying the beach that is walkable from the ship. As last week was not busy this morning on Lido. After breakfast, I went up to the Serenity Deck and enjoyed the Hot Tub for about an hour. It was nice. It’s very warm and so much humidity that it’s almost a visible fog. I’m not even going to try to go off the ship today.  I did a walkabout sat in on some trivia and visited Guest Services.  I went to Big Chicken for lunch and it was a small line.  I ordered my MDE sandwich and fries and sat outside despite of the humidity.  There was one brief moment when there was no line at Big Chicken…there were a lot of staff and crew going through, they are allowed on port days.  I had a relaxing afternoon streaming some news, sports highlights, and old shows…did you know there were Dobie Gillis movies prior to Dewayne Hickman?  Most featured Doris Day.  At 5:00 pm I went to Dr.Inks to have a Crimson Catch my favorite new drink.  Then I met the group at Golden Mermaid for another round of drinks.  We made reservations at ChiBang for dinner.  I ordered the Lettuce Wraps, Spring Rolls, Hakka Noodles, Cantonese Pork, Kung Poa Chicken, and Vanilla Ice Creme for dessert.  It was very good.  I retired to the cabin and watched some videos before bedtime.  I needed rest before my excursion tomorrow.  It was an easy port day for me on the Jubilee.

 

Wednesday,  March 27th  /  Costa Maya, Mexico  /  Day 12 of B2B 

Rolling seas overnight, just enough action to rock you asleep.  I was awake early and had breakfast as usual just after 7:00 am…Blue Iguana of course.  I was able to speak with Lars the Hotel Director about Norwegians in Texas.  At about 8:30 debarked and walked the long pier down to where the Ship Excursions meet.  Today I have the Chaachoben Mayan Ruins & Beach Break Tour.  I have been coming to Costa Maya for so long that there was no Zone Archeological Park.  There were small unofficial tours offered by a local family you could take from Mahahual before the State opened Chaachoben Archeological Park.  I wanted to see how much has been cleared and cleaned and how touristy it has become.  Very much is the answer.  These are not major ruins but nice for cruise guests who have never seen any Mayan Ruins and very convenient to the port.  There were dozens of buses and vans so yes commercialized and so very different.  Progress?  Perhaps, but Costa Maya has become a major port so more attractions are needed for guests… Mahahual alone is not enough.  I loved our guide, Daniel Balam, he was my guide at the Kohunlich ruins back in November and known for his Jaguar call.  Our next stop was at Uchbenkah, a beach pavilion along Balacar  Lagoon. Here we had 90+ minutes to relax with access to Fresh Water, an Open Bar, Snacks, or a Buffet lunch option.  It was primitive but very clean and nice.  We were returned to the dock at about 3:10 pm so time for shopping for those who wanted.  I returned straightaway to the ship and cleaned up from the hot and humid day.  I was too tired from a day of walking for cocktails or evening activities so made it to Big Chicken before they closed at 5:00 for dinner.  It was just what was needed before retiring.  It was a very interesting day in the Jungles of the Balacar area.


Thursday, March 28th / Cozumel, Mexico / Day 13 of B2B 

Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I was up early and had a bit of a change for breakfast as the tortilla maker is caput so no Huevos Rancheros this morning.  I had Arepas and Watermelon Salsa which is fine as I’m going to an all-inclusive today so can eat there.  I left the ship at about 8:00 am and did the 15-20 minute walk to Del Mar Latino Beach Club.  A longer walk from Puerto Maya than from RCL’s International Pier but easy once outside of the pier and vendors.  I started with a Coca-Cola and soon two friends came.  Very breezy and Caribbean waves are breaking over the wall so that’s different.  It was quite a show for several hours, the water would really do different things…very high over the height of buildings, or throw up a lot of seaweed similar to an explosion.  It reminded me of watching a fireworks show…waiting for the next display.  Photo is of HAL Nieuw Amsterdam, docking in rough seas. The weather somewhat cleared, but still breezy and cooler than normal.  Pleasant in fact.  Of course, I enjoyed the drinks and good food: Coca-Cola, Mojitos, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Coconut Shrimp, Chicken Tacos, Shrimp Cocktail, and more.  Only eleven people were there today so attentive service from Jassy and staff.  I went up to Guy’s Burgers for an always good Cheeseburger & French fries so that I could watch OU vs KU softball @ 5:00 pm. OU won.  I updated this blog and streamed other Sports and News before retiring.  It was a FUN Cozumel Mojito day.

 

Friday, March 29th / Fun Day at Sea / Day 14 of B2B 

Rolling seas overnight especially when we transitioned from the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico.  I did sleep well.  At about 8:10 am I went for my final Blue Iguana breakfast: One Huevos Rancheros with two eggs, Arepas, Watermelon & Jicama Salsa, Pico de Gallo, Queso fresco (cheese), and Salsa Verde.  Excellent.  I do believe this is a record for me with the number of times for this breakfast, but my cabin is next to Blue Iguana…so easy.  I went to the Casino to play my $25 free play…I did get $25 in real chips so 1for1 and happy with the $90 I’ll be taking home.  Nice weather and a bit cooler so the outer decks are full and busy.  At noon I went to Bonsi Tappenyaki on deck 8 for lunch (photo), I ordered the Filet Mignon and Lobster combination…it was very good. IMHO better than the Steak House or Seafood experience on the ship.  At 2:00 pm I attended the Platinum and Diamond event in the Theater, I appreciated the Pilsner Urquell beer and entertainment by Owen Stephen.  Following I went to the Alchemy Bar to see some of my favorite Bartenders and make new friends.  It was enjoyable with some custom cocktails as well.  At about 5:00 pm I went to the cabin to watch game two of the OU vs. Kansas softball game.  I was able to leave early as Oklahoma won 17-0 so a run rule stoppage.  I met my friends at about 6:30 in the Golden Mermaid for cocktails and to hear Owen do a great musical set.  By 8:00 I said my goodbyes to good friends, bartenders, and bar servers.  I then stopped at the Seafood Shack on Lido Deck for Lobster Rolls...they were great.  This was my busiest day of the two weeks but finally retired to the cabin to pack for an early debarkation in the morning. It was a busy last sea day on the Jubilee.
 
Saturday,  March 30th  /  Galveston Debarkation  
Smooth seas overnight and slept well.  I was on Deck 6 with my bag in the Diamond waiting area by 6:50 am.  Soon after 7:00 am the Diamonds led the way off the ship.  The debark was well organized by Carnival staff.  Louie himself is active in the Diamond area.  Face recognition at Customs was easy. I found the Hobby Airport bus and was the second guest on it.  My goal was to be on the first and I was however they waited until it was full before departing…that took over half an hour.  We were off at about 9:00 am arriving just after 9:30 am.  Hobby is easy to maneuver and I was through security and at the gate well before boarding for my 11:20 am direct flight to Tampa.

Ship
The newest ship in the fleet with that new ship smell, so to speak. The Excel (XL) class is a great improvement for Carnival. The same basic design as the Mardi Gras and Celebration with a few minor changes…very well designed and two new Bars with new specialty cocktails.
 
Cabin
We/I had cabin 16282 an interior on Lido deck.  We/I loved the location…using the secret door you are out on the Pool Deck in one minute. The cabin has the usual push button safe, queen bed, two shelves, reading lamps at the bedside, a nice small refrigerator, a small bench at the dresser/desk, and a large screen TV. There are two large wardrobes and one set of drawers at the dresser. The bathroom is small and compact, but glass doors at the shower.

Crew
Loved seeing all the veteran Alchemists on board. Our cabin steward Danu was very good and friendly. The wait staff in the specialty restaurants were also friendly and did a good job serving us. They usually do have the best crew members on the newest flagship.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
The MDR food is the long-time standard Carnival menu, but we never ate in the MDR for dinner with so many other options.  The Specialty Restaurants are numerous and very good. My favorites were Big Chicken, ChiBang, and Cucina de Capitano.  The Tappenyaki lunch was my best meal on the cruise.

Highlights of the Cruise
Extended Diamond Luncheons
Good friends on board
Cozumel: Woody’s Day
Blue Iguana breakfasts
Chaachoben excursion day
Dr. Inks cocktail:  Crimson Catch:
The Tappenyaki lunch
Big Chicken